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July 7, 2020

Turant Suvidha Kendra and Other Initiatives for Contactless Customs

by Mahesh Mara in Compliance Law, GST

Turant Suvidha Kendra and Other Initiatives for Contactless Customs

Under its flagship ‘Turant Customs’ programme aimed at providing a ‘Faceless, Contactless and Paperless’ Customs administration, Board has recently introduced a number of initiatives that leverage technology in order to enhance the efficiency in the Customs clearance processes thereby leading to speedy clearances, transparency in decision making, ease of doing business and very importantly, reduce physical contact in the prevailing pandemic situation. These initiatives include, amongst others, automated clearances of Bills of Entry, digitisation of Customs documents, paperless clearance, Faceless Assessment and establishment of Turant Suvidha Kendra at Bengaluru and Chennai vide Circulars No.05/2020-Customs, dated 27.01.2020, No.19/2020-Customs, dated 13.04.2020 and No.28/2020-Customs, dated 05.06.2020 respectively.

2. Continuing with the aforementioned initiatives and with a view to further prepare the ground for applying the reforms pan-India, Board has now decided to take certain measures, which are detailed below.

3. Turant Suvidha Kendra in All Customs Formations:

3.1 Circular No.28/2020-Customs, dated 05.06.2020 provided for setting up Turant Suvidha Kendras (TSK) for the purpose of implementation of 1st Phase of Faceless Assessment at Bengaluru and Chennai and Instruction No.09/2020-Customs, dated 05.06.2020, details the roles and functions of TSKs. Considering the benefits ushered in by providing single point interface, Board has decided to extend TSKs to all the Customs formations for carrying out the functions mentioned in para 5 of the said Circular. The Principal Chief Commissioners of Customs/ Chief Commissioners of Customs are advised to set up the TSKs in all Customs stations by 15.07.2020. This step is being taken in advance of the pan-India rollout Faceless Assessment, which would be  done in phases to be announced soon. To reiterate, the broad scheme of the TSK would be as follows:

 (i) The document verification by Customs officers at Assessment and Customs Compliance Verification (CCV) stages would normally be based on the documents uploaded in the e-Sanchit, not requiring physical submission of documents. However, if in any exceptional situation the physical submission of documents is required by Customs, for defacement or validation, such submission would be made only at the TSKs.

(ii) Documents requiring verification during examination for validation with goods would continue to be done during examination, as at present.

(iii) One or more TSKs may be set up for the convenience of the trade.

(iv) Suitable procedures are to be devised for handling & safe keeping of the documents produced at TSKs. Ideally these documents should also be kept in electronic form.

3.2. The Principal Chief Commissioners of Customs/ Chief Commissioners of Customs are advised to give wide publicity regarding the place, timings and contact details of the TSKs.

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4. At the behest of Board, DG Systems, CBIC has enabled w.e.f. today i.e., 06.07.2020 certain functionalities in ICEGATE which would reduce the need for physical interaction between Customs and trade and also speed up the Customs clearance process. These new functionalities are explained below.

4.1. Registration of Authorised Dealer Code, Bank Accounts through ICEGATE:

4.1.1 Exporters are presently required to register their Authorised Dealer (AD) Code and Bank Account(s) for purposes of remittances and availing export benefits respectively at every Customs station. Even though it is an one-time procedure, it requires physical interaction between the Customs and the trade and submission of physical documents by the latter. Being a manual process, it causes delays impacting exports besides requiring the exporters or their representatives to personally visit the Customs Houses. Same is the case for the process of updation of Bank Account details. On review, this procedure has been done away with.

4.1.2. The Directorate General of Systems, CBIC has now enabled a functionality within ICEGATE login which allows the exporters to make an online request for registration/modification of their AD Code / Bank Account(s) and also electronically submit the Passbook copy or Bank Authorisation letter through e-Sanchit. The exporters would also have access to a Dashboard to view the status of approval and acceptance at PFMS, for quick rectification at their end. The detailed step-by-step guide is available on the ICEGATE portal at https://www.icegate.gov.in/Download/Bank_Account_Management_Advisory.pdf.

4.1.3. The Principal Commissioner/Commissioner of Customs is advised to ensure that the concerned Customs officer completes the approval process for registration/updation of the Authorised Dealer (AD) Code and Bank Account(s) details in ICES within the same working day of receiving the applications, if all requirements are submitted in ICEGATE. Further, if any deficiencies are noticed, the same shall be communicated to the exporter via the Customs Automated system, who would then make required rectification through ICEGATE portal.

4.2. Automated debit of bond after Assessment:

4.2.1. Presently, importers or their representatives are required to physically visit Customs House for physical debit of Bonds after the Bill of Entry is returned (to the importer) for the payment of duty. On review, it has been decided to do away with this requirement. Instead, ICES would automatically debit the Bond and reflect the same in the first copy of the Bill of Entry, provided the details of the Bond are provided during submission of the Bill of Entry. As has been re-iterated earlier, trade is encouraged to use a continuity bond to avoid procedures related to repeat submission of Bonds.

4.3. Simplified Registration of Importers/Exporters in ICEGATE:

4.3.1. Although simplified Registration module for importers / exporters based on verification provided in associated GSTIN has been provided without the requirement of digital signature, since many importers / exporters have not availed the same, various functionalities available in the ICEGATE portal cannot be accessed by them. These functionalities are useful to the importers / exporters and would help them in their management of imports and exports. Some of these functionalities are Management of Bank Accounts, Ledger View, IGST Refund status, Query Reply etc. Therefore, importers / exporters are advised to register on ICEGATE and conduct their Customs clearances through electronic interface. The simplified registration on ICEGATE can be done easily in few moments by following the steps given in the link at https://www.icegate.gov.in/Download/Advisory_for_Simplified_%20Registration_at_ICEGATEv1.pdf.

5. The aforementioned initiatives are expected to enhance trade facilitation as well as improve the efficiency of the Customs processes. Therefore, the trade is advised to make full use of the new initiatives and make their Customs clearance process a pleasant experience. Any difficulties, in this regard, may please be brought to notice of Board.

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